CALGARY, AB -- The Calgary Flames hit the ice at WinSport for the second straight day Saturday with Team B (Nieuwendyk) opening up the sessions, and Team C (McCrimmon) and Team A (McDonald) rounding out the day.
With much of the attention centered on line combinations -- spawned from the surprising trio of Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Micheal Ferland -- Flames coach Bob Hartley explained the philosophy of building the lineup around twosomes, rather than complete lines.
"We want to try to build duos throughout our lineup," Hartley said. "Is it going to be like this on October 7th? I can’t tell. It’s our plan right now and we want to see how it’s going to go. Let’s face it, as much as Dougie Hamilton gives us options on the blue line and [Michael] Frolik gives us options up front, Mony, Johnny and Huds were pretty good last year."
There's still plenty of ice time left and a lot of evaluating to be done before the Flames open the 2015-16 regular season at Scotiabank Saddledome against the Vancouver Canucks, but some of the defensive parings and forward units thus far have been intriguing to say the least.
Another duo that had the sizeable crowd buzzing at Winsport was that of Jiri Hudler and Sam Bennett.
Huder, who finished in top-10 league scoring with a 76-point campaign last winter playing on a line with Monahan and Gaudereau, looks to have instant chemistry when aligned with the 19-year-old Bennett.
"Benny and Huds is a great combination," Hartley said. "We know what Johnny and Mony did last year and we’re trying to find some combinations and chemistry in between the other guys. In order to have a solid lineup we don’t want to be one-trick-pony’s where we load up one line. We try to get some balance in our lineup where everyone is working the same way.
"Training camp is a time to experiment."
Most of Hartley's experiments in the past have worked out quite well.
It seems any time Hudler is paired with a younger player there is a very specific reason for it. The 31-year-old veteran took Monahan under his wing two seasons ago and did the same thing with Gaudreau last season.
Perhaps Bennett can find success under Hudler's tutelage, too.
"Jiri is such a good human being and he takes care of those kids," Hartley said. "Remember two years ago he took Sean Monahan into his house for the major part of training camp and the start of the season. Last year what he did with Johnny. He’s a great leader, we gave him a letter last year and he did great."
It's only September -- it's very, very early, but Hartley didn't dismiss the chance we could see two skating together in October.
"We have many great veteran leaders on our team but Jiri seems to have a knack to really help those young players. Right now for camp that is what we’re trying but there’s possibilities that they could be together during the regular season."
ON THE SHELF
Absent from day three was Flames forward Mason Raymond along with Jon Gillies, Paul Byron and Ladislav Smid.
"[Raymond] had the flu," Hartley stated. "Last night we got the phone call. I was on the ice all day so I didn't talk to [the doctors] yet but most likely he should be back with us tomorrow but I'm not a banker and I'm not a doctor. We’ll wait. If Mas is good to go he’s going to be on the ice."
Hartley added that Gillies, who started in goal when the Flames rookies faced the University of Calgary Dinos on Wednesday but only played the first two periods, improved but was still under the concussion protocol.
Byron and Smid have both skated on their own but Hartley suggested that they could join the main group soon.
"You might see them after the Edmonton double-header but not right now," he said. "We want this to be competitive. They understand that. We can’t put a yellow jersey on a player and we tell the guys we want a competitive camp and then put those two guys with those jerseys on the ice that can’t get hit, it just defeats the purpose. I sat with both of them, they understand it’s just for four days.
"They can skate good and they can play, they just can’t get hit right now."
Team B (Nieuwendyk) and Team C (McCrimmon) scrimmaged Saturday. The game ended in a 1-1 tie with Brandon Bollig and Rasmus Andersson scoring for their respective squads...Jonas Hiller was sporting a new set of pads, catcher and blocker complete with a new design...Garnet Hathaway was back on the ice after missing Friday with the flu...Hartley ended his late session with the dreaded mountain climber drill -- and the winners were:
HEAT 1: 1. Josh Jooris, 2. Kenny Agostino, 3. Gaudreau
HEAT 2: 1. Taylor Burke, 2. Ryan Lomberg, 3. Pavel Karnaukhov
HEAT 3: 1. Keegan Kanzig, 2. Tyler Wotherspoon, 3. Aaron Johnson
The Flames hit the ice again tomorrow with sessions starting at 9 AM before they take on the Edmonton Oilers in their first taste of pre-season action on Monday. Half of the roster will be in Edmonton and the other half in Calgary for split-squad games both getting underway at 7:00 PM. Both games will be streamed live on CalgaryFlames.com.
Flames pre-season ticket packs are available now. Purchase a ticket for all four Flames pre-season home games for just $40 total (Press Level seating) or $150 (lower bowl). This also includes a Flames player autograph session and an on-ice photo opportunity. Go to CalgaryFlames.com/tickets for more information.